Government authorities, United Nations officials and representatives of civil society urged for providing urgent support to Caribbean countries so they can advance on fulfilling the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a context of acute financial weakness due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of natural disasters, among other factors, during a session of the fourth meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development.
The panel entitled Building forward better in the Caribbean post-COVID-19: Critical issues to keep the 2030 Agenda in sight featured opening remarks by Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and Christian Guillermet-Fernández, Deputy Minister for Multilateral Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica.
Speaking afterward were Marsha K. Caddle, Minister of Economic Affairs and Investment of Barbados; Dean Jonas, Minister of Social Transformation and the Blue Economy of Antigua and Barbuda; Roshan Parasram, Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health of Trinidad and Tobago; Kari Grenade, Macroeconomic Adviser at the Ministry of Finance, Planning, Economic Development and Physical Development of Grenada and Chairwoman of the Technical Working Group of the National Sustainable Development Plan 2035; Andrew Lee, Acting Director-General of e-Learning Jamaica Co. Ltd.; Terry Ince, Founder and Convener of the CEDAW Committee of Trinidad and Tobago; and Birgit Gerstenberg, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Belize and El Salvador. Diane Quarless, Director of ECLAC’s subregional headquarters for the Caribbean, acted as moderator.
“It was four years ago, at this very Forum, that we launched the Caribbean First initiative to address the particular challenges that the small island developing states of the Caribbean face. It is a strategy intended to ensure that urgent and timely attention is given to the needs of this subregion. It is a call for solidarity so that countries from our region and from across the world give support to these small states that are struggling to cope with obstacles to their development,” Alicia Bárcena said.
Although the health measures taken in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic have been largely effective in keeping death rates low, they have exacted a heavy toll on the economic, social and psychological well-being of all residents of the Caribbean, ECLAC’s highest authority explained.
In this sense, she stated, the post-COVID-19 recovery offers an important opportunity for the Caribbean to map a new path towards achievement of the SDGs, and to shape a renewed strategy to strengthen resilience and build forward better.
It is necessary to diversify the economy in Caribbean countries that are heavily dependent on tourism, Bárcena added. “A resilient economy will need to be sufficiently diversified to expand the revenue base and create new opportunities for growth and decent work,” she underscored.
In his opening remarks, Deputy Foreign Minister Christian Guillermet-Fernández celebrated the Caribbean First initiative launched by ECLAC, which he said “will combine efforts to continue building in a joint fashion and, therefore, to build better.” The official also expressed support for the United Nations regional organization’s proposals that seek to provide debt relief to the subregion’s countries and create a resilience fund for climate change adaptation.
In their reflections, the representatives of the Caribbean brought to light the diverse challenges that Caribbean countries face in fulfilling the 2030 Agenda in the context of the pandemic and recovery efforts. They called for moving towards an international financial architecture that would promote sustainable development, for guaranteeing access to financing, and for strengthening collaboration between the public and private sectors and civil society to build forward better. They also recognized the need to diversify the subregion’s economies, to keep from depending exclusively on sectors such as tourism, and they pointed to the urgency of fostering a circular economy, among other issues.
The fourth meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, which is being held virtually for the first time, brings together more than 1,200 representatives of government, civil society, international organizations, the private sector and academia, who will be reviewing through Thursday, March 18 the progress and challenges related to the 2030 Agenda’s implementation in Latin America and the Caribbean – the developing region most affected by COVID-19 from a health, economic and social standpoint.